Habit 1: Master time management
Writing a to-do list is a simple yet powerful method. Brian Tracey, the author of the well-known book called ‘Eat that Frog’, suggests that you should start by writing a list of your tasks. Then, you could select the most challenging one and tackle this first thing in the morning. Once you have completed the most difficult item on your list, everything else will seem easy.
Being an academic can be challenging at times. You would give lectures, apply for grants and write academic papers. You need to minimise time distractions such as e-mail and phone notifications and eliminate unnecessary meetings.
Habit 2: Work hard
It’s publish or perish – so publish! Every piece of research can produce more than one paper. You can write about theory, methodology, preliminary results, final results, and problems. Work like every contract could be your last because if you don’t, it just might be. Gaining further contracts will depend on your performance this time and every time.
Don’t get too hooked on any one research method. If you’re only good at using one or two methods, you could miss out on important projects. Keep your eyes open for training opportunities on campus and at conferences.
Explore funding, fellowships and grants. You could start with the Welcome Trust to find out about grant funding opportunities. Liverpool Hope University has a comprehensive list of funding options which could be of interest. Do ask your colleagues about what grants they might suggest.
Habit 3: Be proactive
Don’t be tempted to wait for an invitation to present. Try to contact conference organisers and ask if you could give a short talk about your work. You could even give a talk at another university if you know some colleagues there. Giving a talk is really the best way to get noticed!
Create a supportive team in your lab or work group. Together, you’re stronger. Celebrate successes. Talk about problems. Help each other succeed. Be open to new waves of looking at a research problem. Stumped? Turn your problem around. Ask a colleague who works in another field or a non-academic what they would do. Or ask your research participants.
Habit 4: Take part in networking events
Did you know that networking is one of the most important tools for your career progression? It is essential that you continuously develop new contacts as well as keep in touch with your network. If you have not touched base with somebody for a while, do suggest a ‘virtual coffee’ meeting to catch up.
There is a wide range of researcher networks which you can join and connect with others from the world of academia as well as business. Networking can give you some exciting opportunities: building relationships within your organisation, invitations to speak at conferences, finding partners to collaborate with and receiving moral support from others.
Think about what you want to achieve as a result of networking. Try LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram and Tick Tock to make connections. It is a good idea to use Twitter to make intelligent comments or ask a question when participating at conferences.
Habit 5: Say no to impostor syndrome
Have you ever felt that you do not deserve the success you have achieved? Have you ever felt worried that you were not capable enough to carry out your job? Most people have felt like an ‘impostor’ before (concerned about being found out). Remember that you have been chosen to do your job for a reason. You have gone through a thorough selection process. You are an expert in your field and you have studied for many years to get this far.
Like Olympic athletes, you could visualise your success and see yourself succeeding. Try to share your thoughts with others. You will soon find that others also suffer from anxious thoughts from time to time. Another great strategy is to spend 10 minutes every Friday afternoon writing down your wins. Seeing your achievements in black and white will help you to build self-belief.
Habit 6: Build more confidence
Do you struggle with voicing your opinion at committee meetings, interviewing for funding or presenting at conferences? Imagine that you are wearing a ‘cloak’ which flows out behind you. Stand tall, look up, and project your voice. You can even lower your tone of voice (like Margaret Thatcher did) to make it more commanding.
Being nervous before a presentation is understandable. It shows that you care about the situation. Nerves can also help with sharpening your mind. Instead of saying ‘I am stressed’, try to say ‘I am excited’. Changing the way you talk to yourself will help change your feelings.
If you need to give an important presentation, try breathing exercises and meditation to help calm your mind. Go for a brisk walk to burn off excess adrenalin. See yourself presenting and receiving a round of applause. Do not forget to journal your thoughts. Putting them down on paper will help you leave behind thoughts of worry.
Do take the time to learn about your audience. Are they experts or non-experts? Is there any jargon you may need to remove? Take every opportunity to rehearse your presentation. Practise, practise and practise.
Habit 7: Take good care of yourself
Brains work better in healthy bodies. Too much stress means rushed projects, missed deadlines and burnout. Maintain a healthy diet, exercise and sleep schedule. Good project management should prevent last-minute rushes and all-nighters.
If you are feeling overwhelmed, you may find it helpful to sit in a garden and enjoy the views. Breathe deeply and try to let go of any feelings of stress. Make sure that you do not bottle up your feelings. Do seek information on mental health and contact your GP for further support if you are not well.
Develop these habits and your research career will flourish – and so will you.
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